Master glass artist Dale Chihuly has become one of the most financially successful artists of the 20th century. It's not difficult to understand why when you visit Abravanel Hall and bask in the immensity of his three opulent glassworks on loan for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games: "The Red Tower," "Sun" and "Moon."
But if these large, translucent stunners aren't enough to convince you, "Chihuly 2002," the main Chihuly glass art exhibit at the Salt Lake Art Center through March 17, will.
On display are myriad pieces of the artist's series glass works along with three signature chandeliers.
Entering the center, visitors are introduced to numerous small, early works. There are also more than a dozen of his paintings, employed as blueprints for his glass works, that also stand on their own as beautiful works of art.
Descending the stairs into the main gallery is "The Yellow Tower," a work reminiscent of "The Red Tower" in the adjacent concert hall.
The first thing visitors will see downstairs is the "Macchia Forest." Borrowed from Chihuly's Macchia series, these huge, rippling bowls were created by applying one color for the interior, another color for the exterior and a contrasting color for the lip wrap and dusts of pigment between the gathers of glass.
Bowl after bowl shimmers with contrasting colors and implied textures created by the immense heat and the blowing technique.
The next stop is the "Persian Wall." This enthralling area is littered with splayed, basketlike works of red, orange and yellow. What makes this part of the exhibit so wonderful is the lighting: The shadows mimic the gossamer intricacies of the blown glass not once, not twice but three times, creating the impression of a scintillating flower patch.
Next are three chandeliers that twist and knot with iridescent glow.
Moving into the next area, visitors encounter the "Sea Flowers" installation. These exquisite shapes employ simple white-colored glass that drifts like sand dunes from milky-clearness to crystal clarity. The lighted forms seem to float in a dark abyss.
The "Anemone Wall" elbows its way out into the room with striated, bulbous, tonguelike shapes that snake their way across the neutral-gray wall in yellow, orange, blue, green and red.
From this area visitors can renew their affection for Chihuly's "Baskets" that were so popular at Brigham Young University's Museum of Art exhibit two years ago.
The one area that will astound everyone is the "Persian Pergola Ceiling" room. This is a room, approximately 20 by 40 feet, whose ceiling is made up of 1,183 individual pieces of glass art from Chihuly's various series. Smaller works are covered by larger pieces that are covered by even larger works. It is a 3D sky blown into every imaginable shape and color. This room will leave every visitor breathless.
"Chihuly 2002" is, in reality, an exhibit that is thematically perfect for an Olympic cultural event: The fraternity existing between athletes during the Games is at the very heart of the glass artist's working method.
Since losing an eye in an automobile accident in Ireland in 1976, Chihuly has depended on collaborators to complete his vision. With no depth perception, the artist must direct associates who become his hands. In the Boathouse, a studio/home of 40,000 square feet on the Seattle waterfront, Chihuly holds court, directing apprentices and master glassblowers in the creation of his swirling, sensuous designs.
In 1998, when Chihuly was formulating his plan for an exhibition of chandeliers in Venice, Italy, he decided it would be advantageous to visit other countries and work closely with the glassblowers there to make the pieces.
In an interview with William S. Ellis, Chihuly explained his idea: "Why not go to five countries with great glass traditions and blow chandeliers with both American glassblowers and glassmasters from each of the countries ? a collaboration of cultural techniques and talent that would be unique for each country?"
Chihuly went to each country with no preconceived ideas, taking it day by day, creating results that were impossible to predict but resulted in chandeliers that were unlike any other ever made.
"We would break down the cultural barriers and dispel the secrets that have so long restricted and insulated the great glass houses."
In "Chihuly 2002" the artist gives viewers a show that highlights togetherness and cohesiveness through a deluge of color, shape, light and size. It is a dazzling exhibition, which will surely be talked about for years to come.